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The Wrong Stuff: [Paperback]

Bill Lee , Richard Lally


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Book Description

23 May 2006
The return of a sports classic with a new foreword by the author

Finally back in print after many years, here is Bill Lee’s classic tale of his renegade life on and off the mound. Whether walking out on the Montreal Expos to protest the release of a valued teammate or telling sportswriters eager for candid and offbeat comments more about the game than his bosses wanted anyone to know, pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee became celebrated as much for his rebellious personality as for his remarkable talent. Add to the mix his affinity for Eastern religions and controversial causes, and you can see why Lee infuriated the establishment while entertaining his legion of fans.

In this wildly funny memoir that became a massive bestseller in the United States and Canada when it was first published, Lee recounts the colorful story of his life—from the drugged-out antics of his college days at USC (where he learned that “marijuana never hammered me like a good Camel”) to his post–World Series travels with a group of liberal long-distance runners through Red China (where he discovered that conservatives don’t like marathons because “it’s much easier to climb into a Rolls-Royce”). Lee also describes his minor league days, joining the Reserves during the Vietnam War, his time with the Red Sox, and the 1975 World Series. He spares no detail while recalling his infamous falling-out with Red Sox management that led to his trade to Montreal.

Full of irreverent wit, and an inherent love of the game, The Wrong Stuff is a sports classic for a new generation.

Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA); Reprint edition (23 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307339785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307339782
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,662,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it. A definte must read for baseball fans. 8 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the funniest book I have read in a long time. I have been a baseball fan for a long time, and have learned a lot about the game, but there's nothing like the insight you get from reading a player-written book. Lee does a superb job of blending humor, personal insight, and insight into other players into a brisk, readable volume. I had always been curious what it was like to play with Carlton Fisk, and Luis Tiant, and Carl Yastrzemski, and other greats of the game. And besides, any book that starts with "I think it all started when I was arrested as a pyromaniac." has got to be good.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I KNEW BILL LEE. BILL LEE IS A FRIEND OF MINE... 11 Jun 2004
By Steven R. Travers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
To any modern athlete who thinks of himself as an iconoclast, a funnyman, an intellectual, a wit - whether it be Jason Williams, Barry Zito, Michael Irvin, Charles Barkley, you name it, I say that I knew Bill Lee. I worked with Bill Lee. Bill Lee is a friend of mine, and you are no Bill Lee. This is no put down of those who are not the Spaceman. It is an ode to Lee. I love this character.
This is as funny a book as has ever been written about baseball. It is so unique, so California New Age, so filled with Boston baseball lore and Ruthian curse that reading it is just one big pleasure cruise. Lee is in the tradition of Casey Stengel and Rod Dedeaux, whose lineage he follows.
Lee's aunt was the main character described in "A League of Their Own". This is a guy surrounded by men's men growing up (his old man, his Uncle Grover), yet it is his aunt who taught him how to pitch. Amazingly, I know most of Bill's family, and they are Ed McMahon to Bill's Carson. His father was a straight arrow phone company exec. His aunt just smiles at Bill's buffoonery. She pitched a perfect game in the women's pro league on June 6, 1944 and, when asked if events of that day distracted her, she just said she had the ability to focus.
Recently Spaceman told an audience that "I don't believe in killing anybody, but the Unabomber had some good ideas." Like Hunter Thompson, here is a guy whose politics are the polar opposite of mine, yet I just dig the man.
If you grew up in the San Fernando Valley or Marin County, went to USC (particularly when Dedeaux coached there), or matriculated at Fenway Park, this book will tickle your jones for those memories. Lee is the closest guy I can think of (outside of George Patton) to making me think reincarnation is possible. I see him as a court jester of Camelot, always funny, always taking the minority view and making you shake your head - and smile.
I once had Bill as a guest at my home. At 6 A.M. I went to wake him, and he was gone. I looked out my window and Space was doing Tai-Kwan do with my 119-year old Chinese neighbor, a guy who probably was the emperor's body guard in 1880. I took Space to work. At a law office, I was in conference when the secretary came in yelling to "call 911. A guy's having a heart attack in the parking lot." I looked out the window. Space was doing his afternoon Tai-kwan do. I asked Space to meet me and my SC baseball buddies at the 501 Club in L.A. that night. The guys were all there, skeptical that Space would show. He showed and drank beer with us all night, filling us with stories. When a Doors song came on the juke Space announced, "My brother got stabbed at a Doors concert once." Survived. Space made nice-nice with an SC cutie, regaling her with stories about the 1968 College World Series vs. the Southern Illinois Salukis. Only Space could have captured some chick's attention with memories of the Southern Illinois Salukis. You had to be there.
Space spoke to the Orange County Young Republicans when he was running for President on Canada's Rhino ticket in 1988. The YRs were aghast at Space filling their precious speaker's rostrum until he took stage and had these buttoned-down types - and I do not exaggerate here - literally rolling in the aisles with laughter. Space in front of a crowd is up there with Carlin or Robin Williams.
These anecdotes are a typical example of what is in his autobiography. Not everybody can have the experience of spending time with Lee, but you all can get the next best thing, which is reading this book.
STEVEN TRAVERS
AUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
STWRITES@AOL.COM
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book transcends the sports arena with its humor and wit 21 Nov 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When it comes to sports books, only Jim Bouton's Ball Four can compare with the humor, wit and spirit created in Bill Lee's book of baseball memoirs entitled The Wrong Stuff. This book gives us an inside look at pro baseball through the eyes of a non-conformist pitcher. In his book Lee shows that he is a memeber of a dying breed. He is a man who will not sit idley by as others are mistreated. Through Lee's memoirs it is clear that he was one of the few pro athletes to realize that there is more to life than athletics. Even in hard times Lee would not allow his sense of fairness be skewed by money or fame. The abundance of humor and positive messages in this book have made it one of my all-time favorites and I strongly recommend it!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Scandalous than it Appears 12 Sep 2002
By nusandman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bill Lee's "The Wrong Stuff" looks like on the surface just to be another cut and dried quick biography of a former sports star. But after reading this, I was amazed that this book did not garner the same kind of negative attention that Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" did. Lee talks frankly about his drug use, his indiscretions with women, and his general disdain for the powers that be in baseball. If a star today shared similar revalations, I can't imagine the furror it would cause. Lee pitched a little before I started following baseball but his perspecive on things is timeless. I highly recommend this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great baseball book! 12 Jun 2006
By Rule V Baseball Blog - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Wrong Stuff is a book written by former Red Sox and Expos left handed pitcher Bill Lee in 1984, about a year after his career as a major leaguer ended. It is a fairly quick read at 242 pages. What it is NOT, however, is a "typical" autobiography by a retired athlete. Lee, a California native who attended USC and now resides in Craftsbury, Vermont, instead delivers a real gem of a read.

Humor, insight, irreverence, and honesty are the bedrocks of this book, which follows Lee from his childhood in California, through high school and college, and into ranks of organized baseball. Lee is open and honest about drug use, love, sex, and his personal philosophy on life.

Lee was not a big prospect coming out of college, not like guys like Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, both of whom he played with briefly before being drafted by the Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1968 rookie draft. While he didn't throw that hard, he managed to get guys out by being crafty, out thinking hitters, and sometimes just by being crazy enough to believe he could do it. He headed off to pro ball without a lot of hope of making the major leagues. He figured he'd become a forest ranger when he grew up. Thankfully for him and baseball, Bill Lee never grew up.

Lee chronicles his moves through the minor leagues. During these years, he tangled with tough minor league managers (Rac Slider), met future Red Sox teammates (Carlton Fisk), and his future first wife (Mary Lou), and made bets with teammates about who could drink a gallon of milk in one sitting without vomiting (nobody). As he does throughout the book, he chronicles some games he pitched in...there's no bravado here, though...he talks about the good and the bad with the same honesty and good humor. Lee's minor league career didn't last that long, as in 1969 he was called up to the Boston Red Sox.

Once he found his way to Fenway Park (an adventure in itself), Lee appeared in 20 games in that first season, including one start. He only performed so-so, but made the team out of spring training in 1970. He only appeared in 11 games, however, because he was called up for military service. Lee has some fun talking about the absurdities of military life, but is also brutally honest about how he got preferential treatment because he was a pro athlete.

Lee pitched for Boston from 1969 to 1978, and the stories of winter ball fights, teammates, pennant races, trades, near trades, and run ins with management and coaches are all classic. He talks about the Red Sox teams from those years....moves they made, didn't make, should have made, and how he and the team did those years. Lee was a 17-game winner three times in a row from 1973-1975. He rails against the DH and talks about friendships, rivalries, and enemies, both on his team and around the league. He writes about his only All-Star selection and racism in baseball. He acquired his nickname, the Spaceman, during this time. He also experimented with drugs and alcohol, all of which he talks about openly and honestly.

The 1975 season had the Red Sox winning the pennant and going on to play the Cincinnati Reds in one of the greatest World Series ever played. Lee chronicles the season, and the run through the playoffs and the World Series. He started two games in that series, including the deciding seventh game, but did not record a win or loss. He had to leave game seven when a blister popped. The Sox bullpen coughed up the lead, and the Sox lost the series. Lee was fairly philosophical about the World Series loss, reasoning that it was great just to be part of such a great series. He spent two weeks that off-season in Red China as a goodwill ambassador, and came away with some interesting insights and stories.

Lee writes a lot about the 1976 season...a season that saw several players Lee saw as key cogs in the 1975 World Series team traded away, a brawl with the Yankees, his painful recovery, more trades in Boston, his thoughts on free agency, and a lot more. The brawl with the Yankees, who Lee and many other Red Sox flat out hated, involved Lee sustaining a major shoulder injury after being body slammed during the brawl by Yankees third baseman Craig Nettles. That year also saw the death of longtime Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Between the shoulder injury, the death of Yawkey, and a managerial change from Darrel Johnson to Don Zimmer, Lee feels that this season was a turning point in his time in Boston, and that his days there were now numbered.

During the 1977 season, Lee and several other "renegades" bound together to form the "Royal Order of the Buffalo Heads", named after manager Don Zimmer, who the compared to the buffalo, considered by many to be one of the dumbest animals alive. Lee also pitched the first game of his career under the influence of a controlled substance that year. He got shuffled between the pen, the rotation, and the manager's doghouse. By the beginning of spring training 1978, Lee was one of only two of the five "buffalo heads", who was still around. Both assumed they wouldn't be around for long.

Lee talks about friendships with teammates like Dennis Eckersley and Bernie Carbo, and opponents like George Brett, providing some great stories. The 1978 season started out hot for both the Red Sox (led by slugger Jim Rice) and Lee, although Lee's injured arm would tire as the season progressed. Lee's first major run-in with management happened right after the trading deadline in June. When Carbo, a good friend and solid player, was sold to Cleveland for only $15,000, Lee went on strike for a day. It caused a major uproar, and got Lee into confrontations with team management. The Red Sox began to slip, and the Yankees came on hard. What had been a big division lead evaporated, and the division title came down to a one game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox. The famous game was decided on a home run by light-hitting Bucky Dent, the Yankees went to the World Series, and the Red Sox went home. Lee, who loved his time in Boston, knew his time there was over. In December, he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Stan Papi, who would appear in only 50 games for Boston, hitting just .188.

Lee began the 1979 season on a new team (the Expos), in a new league (the National), and with a whole new roster of teammates. He was reunited with manager Dick Williams, something he was pleased with. Trouble tended to follow him, though...and in spring training, he admitted to the media that he'd been using marijuana since 1968. This caused quite a stir, including some visits from the FBI, but Lee managed to escape any real trouble. He speaks a bit more at this point in the book on his own drug use, drug use in baseball, and baseball training and the changes that were happening in that area during his career. Again, he hits all topics with humor, honesty, and insight. Lee went on to win 16 games in his first year in Montreal, and the talented team finished in second place. Even success came with its rough spots...Lee was hit by a cab while jogging in mid-season, but only missing two starts. The new teammates in Montreal provide for a whole new batch of amusing stories.

Lee could have become a free agent after the 1979 season, but without an agent, he negotiated himself a new three year deal with Montreal. The contract was probably below market for the time, especially since it included deferred money, but he said he had fallen in love with the city, and that money wasn't that important. He was not a fan of free agency, at all, considering it a bad thing for the game.

Lee had a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the 1980 and 1981 seasons both on and off the field. He hurt himself pretty badly falling from the side a friend's house (he was trying to climb up and tap on the window), and missed a lot of time in 1980. Meanwhile, his marriage was falling apart, and he and his first wife ended up getting a divorce. He had a lousy record in 1980, going 4-6 with a 4.96 ERA in 24 games.

The player strike hit in 1981, and that made for a split season. Lee's personal life continued to be topsy-turvy, with his marriage ending, and him meeting the woman who would become his second wife. Lee pitched pretty well, going 5-6 in 31 games (7 starts) with a nifty 2.94 ERA. Williams was replaced as manager during the season, however, and Lee and the other players soon found his replacement Jim Fanning, wasn't up for the job. The players held a meeting and basically decided to self-manage themselves, so that their new manager didn't cost them a trip to the playoffs. The team did make the playoffs, eventually losing to the Dodgers. Lee was married for the second time after the season.

The 1982 season began with more problems with Fanning. Fanning seemed to have it in for a friend of Lee's, teammate Rodney Scott, who had been the starting second baseman for the previous several seasons. Scott was a good field, not hit player, and Lee felt he was a key to the team's defense. Fanning disagreed, and buried Scott on the roster to begin the 1982 season. Eventually, the team released Scott. Lee again went on strike...skipping the team's game and heading to a bar, where he had three beers while watching the game. When he realized his team might need him to pitch, and not wanting to let down his teammates, he headed back to the park, reaching the clubhouse by the 8th inning.

It would be the last time in a major league uniform, in Montreal or anywhere else. He was released by the Expos on May 9th, 1982. After taking a few weeks off, Lee tried to hook up with another major league team for the rest of the season. Nobody called, and nobody returned his calls. He got more of the same as the 1983 spring training camps began.

Lee believes that he was blacklisted by major league baseball as a troublemaker. A conversation he writes about with Dick Williams seems to lend that theory some credence. Is it true? We may never know for sure...but in 1982, Lee was a 35 year old left handed pitcher who could start and relieve. He was coming off a season with an ERA of 2.94, and had a career ERA of 3.62. In baseball, left handed pitchers who can get people out are always a commodity, regardless of age. The chance that nobody in baseball had a spot for one in 1982 or 1983 seems hard to believe.

Overall, The Wrong Stuff was an excellent read...fun, controversial, enlightening, and thought provoking. Lee is one of the all time great characters in Red Sox, and baseball, history. I consider this book to be one of the top three baseball autobiographies I have read, with Jim Bouton's Ball Four and Ted Williams "My Turn at Bat".

Any fan of the game who wants some insight into the inner workings of major league baseball and one of its wackiest players will enjoy this book. Because of it's blunt discussions about drugs, sex, politics, and other controversial topics, the book is obviously not recommended for young fans of the game.
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